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by Chuck Boyer
Wintery Saturday night. 2011. Rural crossroads in northwest Wisconsin. Standing room only at PackerRatz bar and grill. Order a 16 oz. Old Style Lite as Packers and Falcons take the field for second-round play-off game on the joint’s three 21 inch TVs. Fork over a $20 bill. Find the free taco salad fixins on a side counter among a rank of steaming crock pots. Cocktail weenies! Meatballs? Hot damn! Lay down a bed of crispy iceberg and smother with soothing Wisconsin goodness. Finish beer. Order another. Atlanta scores first, 7-0.
Feel a bit baffled. The thing of it is, $16.75 still remains out the original twenty. Remark about the beer pricing to the patron on my left. Tells me it’s always happy hour during Packer games. Say no more! Obviously to wash down the free food, doncha know. Resolve to spend more time chasing sales in the area during football season. The Badger Castle motel even has those sticky finger mattresses like the big boys in the Twin Cities. Help myself to a major bowl of beer cheese soup topped with butter-soaked popcorn. Packers tie Atlanta, 7-7. Life is good.
Receive another beer, no charge. Patron to my right explains. Hadn’t even noticed the guy. No wonder. He’s in head-to-foot camo, from boots to Fleet Farm cap. Says everyone gets a free one when Packers score a touchdown. Adds that on Friday nights after high school games, the place usually runs a bladder buster promotion: fifty cent beers all around until someone has to use the biffy. Atlanta retakes lead, 14-7. Causes some colorful language.
My heart’s not into the game so much as my stomach. Pasta salad next. Loaded with pepperoni and cheddar chunks. Packers respond, making it 14-all. Another free beer, just in time to go with the pasta. The second quarter has hardly begun. Glad not to have been late. $16.75 still sitting on the bar. After four beers. Did someone say life is good? Have a second bowl of beer cheese soup. Packers go ahead 21-14.
Instead of free beer, a chit appears, to be redeemed for a fifth beer as soon as the fourth is gone. Packers expand lead to 28-14. Expand belt. Exchange first chit for beer after receiving a second chit. Half time slows the Packers down. Whew. Twenty minutes to play catch-up.
The lines for the “Bucks” and “Does” are quickly way too long. Bunny hop long. But the butterscotch bars, filled with dark chocolate chips, are unprotected. Irresistible. Some guy name of Del tries to keep the minds of the antsy bathroom waiters off their kidneys with his squeezebox. Does some awesome covers of that Myron guy from Lawrence Welk. Ends with a lively version of Lady of Spain. Love that foreign stuff. Great half time show.
Second half begins. Begin second butterscotch bar. Have serious thought: how neat it is for bars to have bars. Make mental note to share on Facebook. Packers score, now ahead 35-14.
Another chit. Folks can’t keep up the brutal pace. Overflowing with beer and good spirits, some begin using chits for something less filling. Shots. Consider one more bowl of beer cheese to balance the brewskis. Crock pot slightly out of focus. But, no problem. Packers pile on, making it 42-14.
Customers becoming dangerously happy. Women tending bar obviously worried. One offers lap dances instead of chits. But few of us have laps. Hey, it’s Wisconsin, heart of the Belly Belt. The handful who do have laps calculate how much damage a 225 lb. lap dancer might do. Not funny. So, what the hell, chits all around. Rogers jersey across from me takes sudden nap on bar, fumbling a Miller Lite. Predictably empty. No Packer fan ever goes down with beer in his bottle. So, no harm, no foul.
Packers realize the situation they are creating from Racine to Superior and decide to kick field goals instead of scoring touchdowns. Game mercifully ends. Bartenders relax, bankruptcy dodged.
Staring hard at the $16.75 still on the bar, try to figure out how much was spent for eight beers. Use all fingers and wiggle some toes to calculate $3.25. Feel a little guilty. Decide to tip generous. Full twenty percent. Put the $16.00 in my pocket. Tempted to ask for change for one of the three quarters, but feeling gallant, decide to go big and over tip by a dime.
Bar bus arrives in the nick of time. Already half full of delirious joy. Bartenders take charge. You’re either on the bus, or you’re sober. “Stack ‘em up like cordwood,” one tells the driver. Bartenders sort patrons like culling a herd of Angus. Sneak one more butterscotch bar before leaving. A few other bus-bound try to bargain for their snowmobiles or 4x4s. “You can have my first born,” one pleads. Sorry, no demolition derby tonight. Bus finally departs, off on a scavenger hunt for the beds of its muddled contents.
Bring on Da Beers…er…Da Bars...damn…I mean Da Bears. Da Bears!